Halloween Context Clues

Posted by on Sep 21, 2016 in comprehension, vocabulary, vocabulary development, vocabulary tips | 0 comments

Students need to be able to determine the meaning of words that they encounter in text. Context provides many types of clues to the meaning of words. Sometimes, especially in textbooks or student news magazines a definition is stated or an explanation or restatement is added. Students need to learn to watch for this information and to use it. Often a synonym for the word may be used within the paragraph. By paying attention to this new information, students can gain understanding of a word. When a contrasting idea is given, an antonym might help the student determine word meaning. A prefix or suffix on a word can add to student understanding of its meaning. Often students can use their background knowledge mixed with the clues in the text to make an inference. The simplest help in learning the word might be found in an illustration.


I’ve made a page for students to add to their interactive notebook to remind them to look for different types of context clues.



I feel using context clues should be fun, so I have created a Halloween Context Clues Scavenger Hunt. Students can be out of their seats while determining the meaning of words. I have found that students love a chance to move. This product is available at my TPT store and includes the context clues material above (plus several other pages on context clues)  as well as 16 scavenger hunt cards asking students to determine the meaning of words.



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Tackling Tic-Tac-Toe

Posted by on Jul 10, 2013 in comprehension | 4 comments

Tackling Tic-Tac-Toe

Games lubricate the body and the mind.

– Benjamin Franklin

At the beginning of the month I posted my Reverse Bingo idea for making bingo  more educationally involved game. Yesterday when I made a table to insert into a powerpoint, it reminded me of a tic-tac-toe board. I instantly had an idea for making this game have an educational aspect. My new game is initially an independent practice page.

Solve the problems, Find the Tic Tac Toe


On this paper all of the differences are 8 or 9. Once they are solved there will be a row of the same difference as the winner. Do I think some children might be able to figure out which ones are smaller? I would be thrilled if students were able to make generalizations and comparisons based on the similarities of the problems! That is higher order thinking in action!


Solve the problems, find the winner!


Here is a trickier example! Which is the winner 64 or 48?


I am thinking I could extend this by giving 2 students a list of problem choices to choose from, for example:

2 Player


Finally, it would be fun to assign a number for x and a number for o and let the partners brainstorm their own problems for each box. I would provide some incentive or rule to make more challenging problems the better selection. Anyone can multiply by 1 or add 1! Real thinking should be encouraged and rewarded.


Now my goal is to find some way to use this idea for language arts! Any ideas?


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Expanding Bundles

Posted by on Jul 2, 2013 in comprehension, Uncategorized | 1 comment

A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong.

– Tecumseh

Recently I noticed a new type of product being offered on TpT. The seller, Primary Techie, calls it an expanding bundle. She starts selling the bundle before all of the items are posted. The price of the bundle  increases as more items are added. The sooner you purchase, the lower your price. You can get all the new items by uploading the new file. You need to follow the seller, because when a new component is added as a separate product you will get an email. Then you will know to check the bundle for additional items.

She says she learned about expanding bundles from another seller on TpT. I have searched but haven’t found any others. Perhaps they call them something different. Let me know if you know of or discover some. I would love to follow them.

Here’s a link to Primary Techie’s bundles;

I love her work and unique teaching ideas, especially the WTC (Watch, Think, Color) products.

Expanding Bundles

I have created an expanding bundle for this year’s Bluebonnet Book Award Nominees. In Texas the librarians choose 20 books for grades 3 – 6 to enjoy. If the students read at least 5 of the books by the voting date, usually in late January, they get to vote for the winner. Even if you aren’t from Texas, you may be interested in these reading comprehension quizzes. The books are all current trade books that many teachers have or will have in their classrooms.

Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg

Coral Reefs by Jason Chin

Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton

Barnum’s Bones by Tracey Fern

10 Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break If You Want to Survive the School Bus by John Grandits

Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris

Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman

Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan

Whatever After: Fairest of All by Sarah Mlynowski

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

Jangles: A BIG Fish Story by David Shannon

Walls Within Walls by Maureen Sherry

Balloons Over Broadway: the True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Paradeby Melissa Sweet

Bake Sale by Sara Varon

Bluebonnet Books Expanding Bundle



This convenient product will help you  ensure that students are reading and comprehending the new Bluebonnet books for this year. The bundle is a simple solution to running a powerful  Bluebonnet program this year.

This product currently contains 5 of the 20  reading comprehension quizzes that I will be posting for the Texas Bluebonnet Award nominees for the 2013 – 2014 school year. I am selling the individual quizzes for $1.00 each. The bundle currently costs $4.50. If you buy it now you will have eventually (before summer is over is my plan)  all 20 titles!

A really compelling reason to buy now is that as I finish reading each book and creating its quiz, I will add  it to this bundle and raise the price. The price of the bundle will increase as more books are added. The sooner you purchase, the lower your price. You will get all the new books by uploading the new file. Be sure to follow me on TpT so that you get each new product notice and will know when the new books are available!

You will be purchasing this bundle at a significant savings over the listed individual titles. But even better, you will be able to get all of the additional titles at NO ADDITIONAL cost!

Each title includes:

A book summary so that you can be familiar with the texts of all of the books.

16 – 20 Question Reading Comprehension Quiz with questions covering characters, setting, problem, plot, genre, text features, and theme.

A time-saving answer key is provided allowing you to check for student comprehension without reading the entire set of 20 books.

Well, what do you think of expanding bundles? I am trying to decide if this work work for more of my products.



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Discover, Decode, Dissect, Develop, Discuss, DEFINE

Posted by on Jun 21, 2013 in comprehension, conversation as learning tool, Freebies, vocabulary, vocabulary development | 0 comments

Discover, Decode, Dissect, Develop, Discuss, DEFINE

Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

Harvey Fierstein

Well, now it is time for definitions. We’ve found the word, decoded the word, looked at the parts to learn more about the word, done activities to get to know the word, and talked about and used the word. The word should be our word now. It is time to tell what it means. When students define words they shouldn’t spout words found in a dictionary. They should be able to explain, make connections, use analogies, and draw the word.

It is OK, I think, if some of our quizzes involve matching new terms and their meanings, but it is only OK if the meaning that the students have actively built in their heads will be able to be  matched to the words on the quiz. Students should never be asked to memorize new words and definitions with little or no regard to meaning. The words will never be retained and never be used. Time and paper will both be wasted.

It is better for the new words to be used and tested in real context. It is much better for the words to become an established part of the student’s vocabulary. It is best for students to assimilate words as their own for life.

This activity could be a weekly addition to a vocabulary journal. Students should be given the opportunity to share their new words with classmates, family, and any other interested learner!

My New WordMy New Word

More vocabulary development to come.


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Compare and Contrast Matrix

Posted by on Mar 29, 2013 in comprehension, vocabulary, vocabulary development | 0 comments

Morpheus: There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path. The Matrix 1999

Wow, I just found a new graphic organizer. Or maybe I knew about it before, but I didn’t understand it well enough to realize its potential. This matrix should be great for vocabulary development. It will help students make connections, organize their thinking, and use their new vocabulary appropriately.

Here is an example from a new product I am currently creating. Students will grow in understanding about the similarities and differences among these various grasslands as they research information to complete the matrix. The new words prairie, savanna,  steppes, and pampas will become more familiar and better understood. (My newest product “Grassland Animals Scavenger Hunt” could be used with this matrix.)

Compare and Contrast matrix

Another matrix that could be used with many grade levels compares the seasons. From kindergarten upwards students could add information at their own level of understanding.

Comparison Matrix Seasons

Comparison Matrix Seasons

I am excited to explore further uses of this matrix, especially anything that could be vocabulary specific. Does anyone have any ideas?


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Always, Sometimes, Never

Posted by on Feb 24, 2013 in comprehension, conversation as learning tool, vocabulary, vocabulary development | 0 comments

Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.


We need our students to think. For many they are trained to put answers on a line. If there is no line, there must be no question. The directions and information above the lines can easily be ignored. The whole exercise, for those who can get it all right without reading and for those who can get is mostly wrong without reading, is a waste of time. This is one example of why I feel so strongly about conversation as a learning tool. This same exercise, shared with a partner with the expectation that answers need to be defended, requires thinking. The students can learn more about what they know and/or what they don’t know.

Graphic organizers are a great way to have students think. I have created a formative assessment called “Know or No”. I give students a list of words on a current topic for them to rate their knowledge. They can then line up in a continuum showing their understanding. This line is then folded and students are paired to talk about the word(s). This formative assessment can used before, during, and after instruction. Students, of course, should grow in their knowledge, but they should also be aware of that growth.

Know or No

Another great graphic organizer to use is a tree chart. Students fill in each section with whatever information they can think of. For example; thinking – always…  helps, thinking – sometimes…  is hard, thinking – never…  costs money. I have seen many of these on TPT and have made many of my own. Here is a new one on Thinking for today’s blog. The others are examples of ones I have used with my class.

Thinking Graphic Organizer Find more at my blog.Thinking

February Tree Map 1



I hope you give your students many opportunities to think and talk every day!


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